The Main Advantages Of Green Pest Control For Your Health

pest control

When talking about pest control practices, most homeowners believe that there is no solution that does not include some harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, there are even many homeowners that do not know that most of the removal products available on the market at the moment are dangerous for human health. If you want to get Clarkston pest control services offered by professionals, always focus on the use of natural products or the use of natural removal methods. Green pest control offers various interesting advantages you do want to be aware of. Here are some that are very important.

Low Environment Impact

It is really important for all of us to have an environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Although the importance of this only now became evident, it is great to notice that people do make conscious efforts to protect the environment. One of the choices that can be done is to focus on green pest control methods. Various natural methods can be used, especially when referring to keeping the pests away from the home in the first place. Also, you can always use green pest removal products. When hiring the professionals, make sure that they only use such methods or products.

Safe Outdoor Pest Control Products Exist

You do not have to use pest control products only inside the home. This is just a misconception that many believe. Properly removing the pests automatically means that some products have to be used in outdoor areas. Green pest control guarantees the fact that outdoor areas will not be harmed by chemicals normally included in the removal products.

As an example, let us think about the lawn. It can be prone to pest infestation, with termites being the most common critters you could meet. In such an area you do not want to use dangerous chemicals since that would lead towards various bad situations when not being attentive. You can have children affected and it is a certainty that your pets will be faced with problems. Using green removal products will help avoid such a situation.

Lower Hassle

In most situations, when you use regular pest removal methods, you will need to leave your home for a few days. That can be a huge hassle. Using green pest removal or green pest control methods guarantees that no harmful substances will be used. Because of this, you can stay inside the home while the pests are removed. This was not possible some years ago because we only had products that were dangerous for human health. Harmful substances should be removed and this simple practice makes everything easier for the homeowner to deal with.

Conclusions

The only problem that can be mentioned with green pest control is that it will be a little more expensive than regular methods. However, the extra investment is not as large as you may be tempted to believe. You will be able to guarantee that the safety of the environment and of your family will not be affected. That is most likely the most important thing to consider.

Indoor Air quality – A Few Important Facts

IAQ or Indoor Air Quality controls the quality of air within a building that influences the comfort and heath of its inhabitants. Several stressors of energy or mass that affects your health, allergens, carbon monoxide and other chemicals constitute the IAQ besides bacteria, mold and other microbial contaminants.

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Researchers have revealed that the presence of various pollutants often turn the quality of indoor air inferior to that of outdoor air. However, this hasn’t influenced the idea of air pollution. In comparison to the outdoor air, indoor air is more capable of inviting health problems. In most buildings, the quality of indoor air may be improved by following the key methods of utilizing ventilation for controlling sources of pollution, filtration and diluting contaminants.

The fact that we’re often working indoors have led to the accumulation of harmful allergens inside our homes. These irritants won’t even escape on their homes since our homes are mostly airtight now-a-days.

Steps for improving Indoor Air Quality

Sucking things up

For decades, dust particles accumulated within our household are known to possess certain allergens and chemicals. You may curb the lead concentrations within your home by utilizing the vacuum associated with your HEPA filter. Dust mites, pet dander, pollen and other allergens can be eradicated along with PBDEs and other toxins.

Blowing out of accumulated dirt and dust in your exhaust is a common problem when your vacuum cleaner doesn’t possess an effective HEPA filter, rotational brushes and powerful suction. You may need to use the cleaner for multiple times and around the same spot, especially when you’re residing within a high traffic area. Remember that the largest concentration of dust forms in upholstered furniture, carpet edges and walls. Apart from washing your filter on a regular basis, you must vacuum a couple of times every week if you really wish to achieve the best results.

Mopping it up

Vacuuming may leave small traces of dirt within your floor. You may pick it up through mopping. All remaining allergens and dust can be captured by using plain water even when you don’t find any cleaner or soap. In comparison to traditional fibers, the mops possessing microfibers are known to remove more dirt and dust. You won’t even need to include a cleaning solution for these mops.

Leaving it outside

Each of your doors should have a large floor mat. While stepping inside, we tend to carry dirt comprising of harmful chemicals. A door mat restricts the entry of pollutants, pesticides and dirt right at the door. With a big mat, you’ll be able to restrict most pollutants from entering your floors. Pollutants are wiped even as you move through a big mat.

When it comes to controlling of indoor air quality, a preventative and economical approach could be promoted by developing certain guidelines. These guidelines are supposed to cover areas like structural necessities besides issues like heating, ventilation, equipment usage and cleaning. Developing a healthy environment in places like canteens, gymnasiums, locker rooms, science laboratories, recreational spaces and classrooms is possible when the tips mentioned in these guidelines are followed.

Both at local and national level, the current efforts are complemented by these IAQ guidelines. The local authorities as well as policy-makers are supposed to follow these guidelines. These guidelines are laid to help them undertake specific actions besides helping school constructors, students, parents and the support staff in their attempt to develop a healthier environment.

Water, Water Everywhere but Not a Drop to Drink

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As we here at the homestead move through the summer being very careful to ration our water usage due to the cracked cistern, it’s not hard to see how it’s not just our bad farming practices that waste and pollute the earth’s water supplies, it’s also ourselves. Why doesn’t everyone have low-flow toilets and showers by now? Why doesn’t everyone use a flow meter to track how much water they are consuming? Why do we still fill big bathtubs high for lengthy soaks when a few inches of water would do the job of washing away the grime just fine? Why do we insist on those ridiculous manicured lawns that serve no purpose at all, when a nice veggie or flower garden would be much more inviting, and local, well-acclimated wild plants would make for a much more interesting landscape?

Serious shortages of fresh potable water across entire regions of the Middle East, Africa, central and south Asia have long been in the news as conditions grow worse with the advent of global warming. Extended droughts have caused increasingly destructive wildfires in Australia, Russia and here in the United States, where fires so far this year in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have charred millions of acres of land.

To get a picture of how bad the situation is getting – and how agricultural policies, municipal waste and unsustainable consumption levels affect the clean water we Americans tend to take for granted, consider the fact that the mighty Colorado River no longer flows to the sea because every drop is diverted along the way. Running 1,450 miles through seven U.S. states and two Mexican states, the river and its tributaries have been impounded by 20 dams along its length to provide water to cities in the parched southwest and water for irrigation, golf courses, desert green-spaces and such. Some researchers are saying that Lake Mead, the source of water for 22 million people, may be dry by 2012.

Watercrisis

With the human population growing at an increasingly unsustainable rate, irrigation for growing crops around the world has also increased by millions of hectares, more than doubling from less than 150 million to 300+ million hectares since 1960. As the climate changes more rain will fall in some places while other places turn to desert, and no one seems to be paying enough attention to our bad agricultural practices and lousy dietary choices that pretend clean water is something we can all take for granted forever. It’s not just the fabled Colorado that is running dry – China’s Yellow River, which used to flood so severely every year that my childhood never saw a year when hundreds of thousands of people weren’t drowned, no longer reaches the sea and has been known to go completely dry. One of the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea is now completely dry for part of every year, even as the Aral itself shrinks alarmingly.

Lake Chad in central Africa has shrunk by 95% in the last 40 years, and the Punjab region of India is facing a vastly diminished water table, as is our own Great Plains breadbasket region as the vast Ogallala Aquifer is drained steadily to irrigate genetically engineered crops used to feed livestock raised in unhealthy CAFOs for meat rather than human beings.

As we here at the homestead move through the summer being very careful to ration our water usage due to the cracked cistern, it’s not hard to see how it’s not just our bad farming practices that waste and pollute the earth’s water supplies, it’s also ourselves. Why doesn’t everyone have low-flow toilets and showers by now? Why do we still fill big bathtubs high for lengthy soaks when a few inches of water would do the job of washing away the grime just fine? Why do we insist on those ridiculous manicured lawns that serve no purpose at all, when a nice veggie or flower garden would be much more inviting, and local, well-acclimated wild plants would make for a much more interesting landscape?

UK’s Independent published an article citing details of the World Water Development Report released this week, and the outlook isn’t good. Right now 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water, and nearly 2 and a half billion lack proper sanitation. Inertia among the world’s political leaders means that necessary efforts for conservation aren’t even starting despite the ever worsening situation. The projection is that by the middle of this century at least 7 billion people in 60 countries will face water scarcity. This adds up to hunger, disease and death.

What little fresh water the planet does have is being polluted unmercifully. Much pollution comes from chemically dependent agriculture, but in our haste to exploit energy sources the practice of fracking for natural gas is shocking in its gross disregard for environmental preservation. In some places water coming out of taps actually burns, and the chemical stews used in the process don’t even have to be reported for toxicity. The pollution is so shocking that the state of New Jersey this month passed a statewide ban on franking in order to protect their water supplies. Pennsylvania is considering its own ban, and more states are sure to follow.

At present more than 1,100 U.S. counties face water scarcity issues. That’s a third of all counties in the contiguous 48 – this is a very, very serious situation we should all be paying attention to. For homesteaders out here working hard to become as self-sufficient as possible, we might well begin to consider our own water supplies to be the most valuable natural resource of all in our efforts to protect and defend the land and our chosen way of life.

I know that our current water troubles here on my own homestead have certainly made me more aware of just how precious this resource really is, even though I do not irrigate my crops at all because there is no shortage of rainfall in these Great Smoky Mountains. I have been following the various models for projecting what is to occur as the climate changes, and have been somewhat gratified to see that while we can expect up to 4 degrees overall rise in annual temperature means, we are slated to also get about 4 inches more rain every year. I can always plant peaches, figs and pecans in the orchard if it gets too warm for good apples and pears, grow more watermelons and pumpkins for market. But ensuring the purity and continued flow of water through my land must become a passion that I’m as willing to pursue as my lobbying against GMOs to neighboring farmers in order to protect the value of my organic crops.

They attempted a couple of years ago to carve out sections of the National Forest we abut, so developers could create fancy log McMansion gated communities for wealthy people’s vacation comfort. These developments had carte blanche to divert the natural mountain streams that drain the eastern side of the divide for their own lakes and golf courses and such, which would discharge chemicals along with their sewage back into the streams uphill of us that then flow through my property. Every conservation group in the region got together, and with help from us landowners lobbied hard to the federal agencies who thought they could sell portions of our collective natural heritage to rich people just because there was lots of money involved. The very best thing to come out of the nationwide financial collapse – and real estate bust – was that this plan got shelved when nobody was buying. Though we are watchful, because once things pick up again they’ll be right back to buying up tracts of National Forest for their own amusement and dumping their waste on us.

This can happen anywhere there are state and federal lands, way too close to our beloved little plots of land we cherish so much. Even during times of economic distress like the current Great Recession bureaucrats may be moved to sell the water and mineral rights to irresponsible corporate interests for exploitation, and our water woes will get steadily worse. Look around closely at what’s happening in your state and area, and get involved with the conservation groups that are fighting this rape of the land and water. Don’t feel safe just because you no longer live in a city, or because your land abuts set-aside tracts of wilderness. We homesteaders must get active to protect it all, or one of these days we’ll wake up and it will all be gone.

Earthlodge: The Original Sod Home

earth lodgeI read an interesting article on the “earthlodges” of Native Americans in the Dakotas the other day. I’d learned early in my life when the family moved from New York to “Indian Territory” – Oklahoma – that not all Native Americans lived in those portable teepee tents so prevalent on the plains. I knew the ‘civilized’ tribes of the southeastern United States were able constructors of log cabins for their permanent villages, and of course knew about those spectacular adobe pueblos in the southwest. And while I learned in junior high Oklahoma history about the sod-roofed shanties built by white settlers (and for which Oklahoma was famous), I’d never heard of earthlodges.

Earthlodges are large round structures from 20 to 50 feet in diameter which are built to be much more permanent than the yurts that basically amount to a Mongolian version of teepee for migratory people. Lots of people these days have deck-mounted yurts that are popular as camp cabins or gazebos, but they’re not really something stable or well-insulated enough to live in full time.

In contrast, the earthlodge is dug into the ground and framed with logs, covered with woven willow mats and then covered completely (except for a smoke hole in the middle of the roof) with mud and sod. Your basic hobbit house, but as its own hill rather than dug into a pre-existing hill. Of course, there are some modern earthlodge designs that combine aspects of natural landscaping and lodge building, which are actually quite nice if you don’t care much about windows. It would be quite easy to engineer one of these with skylights, so interior darkness can be alleviated.

earth lodgeThe original earthlodges were built communally, often housing between 15 and 25 people. They provided solid, very well-insulated shelter for harsh Dakota winters, and stayed naturally cool in hot Dakota summers. They lasted only as long as the palisade poles and main support logs lasted in the ground, about 7 to 10 years before they’d rotted enough to need replacing. Since it took only about a week for a group to construct an earthlodge from scratch, the old one would simply be torn down and a new one erected in its place. The old logs recycled into firewood made this village system quite efficient given that the Dakotas do not enjoy the thick, lush forests of the American southeast.

For a new homesteader looking for cheap, eco-friendly housing on a tract of raw land, it’s not difficult to see how the problem of ground-rot could be simply eliminated by seating the anchor and palisade logs in concrete. The thermal mass of palisade logs plus dirt/sod can be nearly warm in winter and cool in summer as 3-foot thick adobe walls. More modern – and fully waterproof – coverings take the place of those woven willow mats, and fewer palisade poles would allow for regular insulated walls or an opportunity to place windows and/or exits to porticos, or to build storage rooms or closets off the main structure. For a truly permanent structure, some research on new under-sod waterproof roofing material would probably be a good idea.

The niftiest thing about this kind of permanent shelter is that if your land is raw enough to need some clearing, the logs and poles can be taken as part of your clearing plans. These will have to be de-barked and dried above the ground, there are many good Do It Yourself books and plans out there for site-built log homes that have clear instructions on how to do this. If you’re planning to grow crops, the sod shouldn’t be hard to come by. Rather than a big central fire pit and large hole in the roof, a central wood stove with just a pipe running up through the roof will protect from the elements much better than the wicker baskets the Mandan people used to cover their smoke holes when it rained.

It also strikes me that the side walls could be constructed of straw bales and covered with mesh and stucco or adobe instead of mud and sod and still be as easy to heat and cool. Some may consider rock as well, if the land has an overabundance of those that need removing before crops can be grown. Any of these alternatives for some or all of the side walls would make for a very handsome home. The sod roof does have great appeal, I’ve always envisioned a hobbit house with wildflowers instead of just more grass to have to mow.

The interior, once you’ve got the central roof supports and planned your walls, can of course be framed and subdivided as you please for cooking sleeping and living areas, bathrooms and utility as you wish. The Dream Green link above also offers a plan for a ‘multi-lodge’ made up of several octagonal earthlodges connected to a front portico area. This idea offers the possibility for future expansion as the family grows.

So chalk this up as yet another eco-friendly green construction to think about if you’re new to homesteading or are planning to build more structures on your homestead than you’ve already got. A far less modern (more true to origin) version of earthlodge would make a very serviceable combo barn, root/wine cellar and tool/vehicle storage shed. For as long as you can keep the livestock from eating the walls and roof, that is.

Links:

Indians 101: The Earthlodge
Dream Green Homes Earth Lodge
Blue Ridge Yurts

Don't Let Damaged Property Become A Disaster—Use A Restoration Company

It’s no secret that real estate can be a lifetime investment. However, we live in an unpredictable world, and one can never anticipate a major disaster or accident. Fire, flood and water damage are the main risk factors that influence property devaluation, and so should be considered carefully when protecting your home or workplace. If the unthinkable happens to you, a sound investment in professional building restoration and cleanup is the best way to reclaim the losses and re-invest in the future.

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The remnants of a property after a disaster are still an investment. Sometimes, restoration seems near impossible to undertake by yourself, or without proper consultation. A good restoration company offers safe, environmentally friendly solutions to clean and restore damaged premises. Today these environmental forerunners are easy to locate—the best companies in the business have established a click-to-call storefront in cyberspace. Today it’s not difficult to find a consulting firm that adheres to IICRC standards when handling emergency disaster cleanup in the home or at a commercial complex.

A restoration specialist assumes different roles for business and residential projects. Clients should opt to commission a specialist whose background includes an extensive range of skills. Common services include kitchen/window cleaning, floor care, upholstery, janitorial services and construction cleanups. A kitchen cleanup project is a daunting task. It is space that should feature a safe, hygienic environment that complies with current health standards. Moreover, a commercial kitchen space is a bit chaotic at times; the atmosphere alone is a health hazard. Proper care and maintenance are essential to those who work or eat from the kitchen. When airborne grease, steam and carbon have nowhere to exit, they make their way into the ventilation system. When this happens, airflow is reduced, fires are started, strong ours are produced, and bacteria begin to build. A restoration company specialist can undertake a thorough inspection to assess the risk of fire and properly clean the ventilation system.

After a disaster, or as a safety measure, a restoration technician can use advanced tools and equipment to clean and deodorize floors. If there’s any water pooled in sections of the building, they can remove it without causing any health hazards. Different contaminants lurk around the premises after a fire or flood. The many quality fire restoration services in Toronto can make the place whole again and eliminate all airborne bacteria and microbes. Such technicians offer different floor cleaning solutions to restore the construction. Most specialty companies offer floor care solutions for vinyl, hardwood and tile construction. Furniture damages are another common concern when the premises undergo a disaster. Few property owners opt to restore their furniture when such a misfortune happens due to the costs involved, but a restoration company specialist can use cutting-edge technology and cleaning agents to restore upholstery to its former condition, if not better! They offer different cleaning methods based on their inspection of the construction and material. The result is a flawless piece of furniture to improve the reputation of the premises.

A restoration specialist offers daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly cleaning for commercial facilities. With antibacterial agents, high-powered equipment, and a team of trained cleaning specialists, companies can limit cross-contamination. A janitor uses specialized techniques to capture and remove internal and external pollutants, improving air quality and eliminating pollutants. The best companies use deep cleaning, eco-friendly agents, tools, and equipment. For windows, the leading organizations use cutting-edge tools to clean the interior and exteriors. They use meticulous screen cleaning techniques to clean the tracks and sills of the windows. If there’s any adhesive, paint, hard-water deposits, or stickers attached to the screen, they will remove them and give the window a radically improved appearance. They also serve commercial and residential spaces with a full-service remodeling plan, which includes home remodeling, repairs, and restorations to damaged buildings. When buying restoration services from a consulting firm, a sound investment is to hire a green-seal certified company. They’re knowledgeable and always use environmentally friendly products.

Countless residential and commercial real estate owners have used these services to boost their property net value or recoup losses from natural disasters. All future investors should consider a professional, environmentally friendly service to save time, money, and to give peace of mind. A properly qualified and technologically advanced company can turn a major mess or disaster into new—or better than new—in no time at all, so why wait? Book a professional cleaning service now!

USDA: Sequester Impacts

Sequester_ImpactsWe homesteaders are among the citizens who pay a good deal of attention to the programs and operations of both state and federal agricultural departments because they can directly affect us (for good or ill). We often make use of our state ag departments’ extension services for education in things like beekeeping, land use, community ag promotional programs, etc. And we keep track – often with some trepidation – of the various ways that the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] can make or break our attempts to make our livings off the land and the work we put into it. Under this rubric come permissions and restrictions for selling our produce and other home-grown products to the public, to local and regional government programs, food banks, schools, etc., as well as all those expensive and tiring hoops we must jump through to obtain and keep certifications for organic labeling, etc.

We live on and off the land, and must keep ourselves abreast of the tricks of that trade. In this blog I have expressed some reservations about Tom Vilsack, who was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Obama some years ago, due to his corporate-friendly policies. Particularly in regards to Monsanto’s agri-chem and GMO activities, which are a considerable threat to organic producers. He has also been somewhat less than supportive of local producers being allowed to supply raw and processed foods to local schools and food banks, which we see as an important part of the ‘locavore’ – “Eat Local” movement. Buying and eating foods grown and processed close to home removes one of the most environmentally insidious government-subsidized cost-adds to our food supply – the costs of transporting foods grown in other states, regions and countries from farm to processor, and from processors to market. Almost all of it accomplished by the burning of fossil fuels.

The U.S. government has been operating for some months under what is known as “sequester,” one of those hostage threats Republicans in the U.S. Congress used to try and get their policies enacted despite being unable to win actual elections on the merits of their ideas. This seq uester has cut spending levels across the board fairly drastically, and crippled many government agencies and departments to the point where some of their most important jobs don’t get done. USDA is one of those crippled departments.

For example, the sequester has slashed government subsidies to school districts to help support their school breakfast and lunch programs. At the end of this month (October) schools will have to provide their own funding exclusively, though the government claims they will be reimbursed at some point. If the sequester is ever recinded, and now presuming those same Republican hostage-takers won’t keep the entire government shut down indefinitely while crashing the world’s economy by refusing to pay the bills for appropriations they’ve already allotted from the budget.

Concurrent drastic cuts and cut-offs to both the SNAP (Food Stamps) and WIC food programs are cutting deeply into the ability of families – many of them working full time but earning minimum wage – to put food on the table. With neither school feeding programs or food assistance from the government, a great many people will simply have to do without. We know that doing without food isn’t a particularly healthy way to live, but at least one party in our political system doesn’t think that’s a problem. I presume they and their families eat very well, thanks. We certainly pay them enough for that.

Both SNAP and WIC will run out of funds nationwide by mid-November. Just in time for the holidays! Funding for rental assistance has also been cut, and no new farm/business loans are being processed. Farmers who had previous loans through USDA and have sold this year’s crops can’t get the checks cashed because county offices for the Farm Service Agency are all closed. A freak autumn blizzard in the Dakotas killed thousands of cattle and horses, but the conservation arm of the USDA cannot help to get the dead livestock buried. This is obviously a serious issue for the immediate health and well-being of both rural dwellers and healthy livestock.

From here on, until and unless our government flunkies in Congress wake up and do their too well paid jobs, we are all on our own. Severe weather affecting farmers and ranchers will not be mitigated by the usual government emergency loans and/or mobilization of resources. Families going homeless and hungry through the winter will not be aided, nor will they or their pets or any farmer’s lost livestock get buried when they finally die. Hell, in another [not ag related] outrage of Congressional shananigans, the families of our soldiers dying in Afghanistan and elsewhere are no longer receiving the ‘death benefit’ they are entitled to, so not even our war dead are getting buried if the families don’t have cash on hand.

This situation is obviously untenable and cannot keep going for long, but I see no signs that the radical reactionaries in Congress are willing to do anything whatsoever that might save the nation from absolute ruin. If something doesn’t give very soon, by the time agricultural America gets started planning the spring crops there may be no national government at all and no help for anyone to access adequate food.

There are a few things we can do. First and foremost, call and/or write your congressional representatives and let them know this obstructionism must stop. Now. Let all your friends and family know how important it is that our representatives face harsh pressure on these issues. Get involved with your county and state electoral organizations and help draft decent candidates to challenge die-hards in next year’s elections. Think hard about running yourself if you believe you can do a good job, everyone you know will be thankful.

Get together with your homesteading and farming neighbors and meet with your community aid organizations (like Lions, Kiwanis, 4-H, etc.) to expand community shares programs, community gardens and crop set-asides to go directly to local food distribution services and schools for feeding hungry people. Do as much fund-raising as you can – host events, give public presentations, lobby county and state governments as well as local businesses and corporations – to replace necessary funding for programs to help our communities.

If we go ahead and act as if the federal government is no longer in the business of serving the people, we can make concrete plans to serve each other. Then, when (and if) the dust in Washington settles, we may find ourselves much more committed to each other and much more capable of doing for ourselves. Which, in the end, may be the best lesson the political class in D.C. could ever be taught by ‘We The People’.

A Timber Business That Doesn’t Cut Down Trees

timber_businessIn my very rural neighborhood with lots of small-acreage homesteads that have been going for generations, there is a lumber mill. Belongs to a neighbor, mostly just a big-timber circular saw and carriage under a sturdy roof with no walls, stacked hardwood logs he and his several sometimes/part-time workers have salvaged from acreage nearby being cleared for building and/or farming. For some years his main business was ‘machining’ those logs into the makings of log homes – from small cabins to big McMansions – for a local log home outfit that has since suffered the results of recent economic and real estate troubles.

Oh, he’ll still process logs if you really want log walls for a house or cabin you’re building, but mostly his mill has been silent lately. One of his backhoes is down, though his big front-end loader is still working on some development acreage a bit south of here. We’ve contracted him to do a big job on the steep front end of our half-mile driveway, the culverts of which were crushed by heavy railroad machinery years ago. That means that whenever we or the railroad whose access IS the front section of our driveway pay to have the thing re-graded after a season’s hard rains send most of the gravel into the road down below and carves deep canyons that’ll wreck the underbelly of any non-4WD vehicle, we can be assured that the next hard rain is just going to tear it up again. He also gives us the half-round slicings off the logs that he does mill, which are excellent wood stove fodder during the cold months.

But seeing his mill idle so much of the time these days is sad, in that none of us locals are very rich even during boom-times. And I’ve wondered what other things a person could do with a homestead sawmill that could tap into the still-strong rich-people retirement and vacation home market in this area. Son-in-Law has a nice wood shop in the next county north, as he is a master cabinetmaker and woodworking artist when he’s not teaching sculpture at the area’s Community College. Has all the routers and lathes and fancy edger-type machines that can turn hardwoods into cabinets or fine furniture or anything else that can be made of fine wood. In fact, there are quite a few fine furniture woodworkers in these mountains, as it used to be how the region earned outside money – Hickory, Drexel-Heritage, Ethan Allen… all the big names in expensive generational-quality hardwood furniture before the industry closed up shop and moved to China because Americans couldn’t afford it anymore.

When I went looking around, I found several good sites dedicated to the fairly “new” industry of salvaging ancient logs from the rivers that were used when the country was young to float harvested timber to the mills. Seems that cold water preserves this old growth timber very well, and when long-lost logs salvaged from the riverbottom mud are brought up and carefully dried, it offers some of the very finest hardwood to be had anywhere outside the virgin wilderness that cannot be logged.

For at least two hundred years the rivers in our country were used to raft logs from one place to another. The trees were cut and stripped of limbs, then tied together to float downstream to a mill. Many times the river would be running high and fast, and when these rafts hit rapids they broke apart. Many logs were lost to the rivers, where they waterlogged and sank into the mud on the bottom. The cold water preserved the logs – often harvested centuries ago from virgin old growth, and now they can be used to make fine furniture and hardwood flooring with grains that simply cannot be matched by today’s early-harvest tree farms. Even better for the few with the salvage and transportation equipment, the furniture and wood flooring that can be made from the logs commands a very high price in today’s markets.

Here in North Carolina salvage timber companies are mining rivers on the coastal plain of the Neuse and Cape Fear, but the bigger rivers just over the Continental Divide – which drain into the Tennessee and eventually the Ohio on their way to the Mississippi have so far escaped the big salvage outlets. Even three or four fine timber logs salvaged and trucked here to the mill and finishing shops would bring a pretty penny to the homesteaders who cared to take advantage of the opportunity. In the sounds and bays where timber once formed walkable surface from shore to shore, thousands of such logs wait to be mined.

Wired had a 3-page story on this new industry called Reservoir Logs that detailed the salvaging and eventual end use of these precious old growth logs.

If you’re on the shoreline or live nearby, underwater timber harvesting is remarkably quiet: no screaming chain saws or smoke-belching heavy machinery. In a steady, splashing procession, tree after tree bobs to the surface, where a small tugboat rigged with a pair of hydraulic claws grabs the trunks and tows them into something called a bunk, a partly submerged U-shaped cradle. I can see three bunks from the barge. Each stores up to 300 trees and can be raised onto a second transport barge that holds up to 1,000 logs. The Sawfish and its four-person crew will fill it in just four days.

Sure, in the highlands one could not be expected to deploy big ships and remote-operation submersibles, because the water’s not that deep and the logs not so tangled. The haul would be smaller, but the rewards just as big for the right people. For instance, consider what Desert Rose Banjo says about Recovered Old Growth Timber

Since its emergence onto the world market barely four years ago, recovered old growth timber has caused a tremendous stir in the musical instrument world. It is called submerged timber, old wood, sunken wood, water-logged wood, timeless timber, lost timber and a number of other names. Knowledgeable people are either embracing it or condemning it as “snake oil”, often both without ever seeing a piece of wood or playing an instrument using it…

Ah. The crafting of fine instruments from dulcimers to dobros to banjos to mandolins and violins has a storied history and a vibrant present in this region of True Bluegrass and traditional mountain music. Desert Rose investigated the product, and had the wood totally tested by an independent government laboratory. Its certified results documented and fully supported the claims circulating about the density, strength-to-weight ratio, modulus of elasticity and all other industry specifications. Moreover, the acoustic performance characteristics of the wood were measurably superior to land-harvest woods for making fine instruments and wind harps, wind chimes, tongue drums and vibes, etc. A single old growth salvaged hardwood log – say, maple or hickory, cherry or white oak – could make dozens of instruments, a few two-octave vibe keys, as many wind harps as any major estate could afford, and still have enough left to turn into a matched dozen fine Windsor dining chairs plus 24-foot table.

For those interested in researching this opportunity, check out some of the old growth timber flooring and veneers offered by such companies as Aqua Timber. And remember that salvaged old growth timber is environmentally friendly!

Hurricane Sandy: Solar Plan-Ahead

Hurricane_SandyWe all watched in dread fascination as Superstorm Sandy hooked a hard left right where predicted off the coast of northern Virginia to slame full-force into northern New Jersey and New York City just days before Election Day. Its storm surge was every bit as devastating as predicted, and its 1,000-mile-plus wind field wreaked havoc and whipped up 30-foot waves on Lake Erie (20-footers on Lake Ontario). The storm whipped an arctic front around the back side and dumped feet of snow on southern Appalachia. Tens of millions lost electricity in the storm, and some have still not been reconnected.

As we usually see in Florida and along the Gulf coast during hurricane seasons, home supply companies quickly ran out of portable gas-powered generators and other emergency supplies, even before we were treated to the appalling spectacle of a wind-whipped inferno taking out more than a hundred homes in Queens, which was above the surge and thought it was safe. I’m sure we’re all gratified that good forecasting and serious pre-storm planning as well as pre-placement of relief personnel and supplies kept the death toll down to less than half a percent of Katrina’s toll back in 2005. But we also learned that for all those portable gas generators that were sold to people who knew their electricity would go out, the attendant problem of gas stations being unable to dispense gasoline without power rendered most of them entirely useless.

So I’m passing along an interesting blog article entitled Use solar to survive the next storm. Now, solar panels atop a pole in the yard aren’t any more likely to survive hurricane-force winds or 14-foot waves than your bird house is. But houses in New Jersey and New York that had rooftop solar panels fared very well – there are reports of considerable damage to shingles and gutters and such, but so long as the entire roof isn’t taken off, the solar panels up there should be fine.

Now, we know that solar panels won’t provide any ready juice in the middle of the night, or when the kind of deep, rain-drenched clouds a superstorm brings are between you and the sun. But for emergency purposes you should have some batteries already charged and ready to take over at least a minimum of lighting, radio, charging of PCs and cell phones, perhaps even running your laptop or iPad for up to date information. Even your basic surge protector for computer equipment – the kind with an undersized car battery with converter built-in and plugs will serve the purpose until the sun is shining again. You can set it up to draw its full charge from the solar panels normally, even if your panels are wired into the grid. While that wiring is done, just insist on a switch that will allow you to use the solar panels exclusively whenever the grid is down.

Here are some nifty portable solar generators that would in this storm have proven way more useful than a gasoline generator you couldn’t get gas for, once the next day dawned. Goal Zero offers emergency solar kits in personal, family and household sizes. Home Depot and Lowes have a variety of solar products and generators too, and the prices are getting more reasonable every year. Cabela’s outfitters offers portable solar generators too, a little tougher-built and a little more expensive. Truly industrial-level portables with steel containers of batteries are available through several companies, those by Mobile Solar are impressive, can even be sized for off-grid living.

We homesteaders don’t generally live in big cities, but there are urban homesteaders all over the place these days coming up with sustainable means of living in cities. How about having street lights with solar panels and batteries? Solar powered stoplights and such as well, to switch over from grid whenever there’s an interruption?

At any rate, for those of us who know enough science to be expecting increasingly violent weather from global climate change need to ensure our emergency supplies and power are well thought-out. It seems to me that NOT having to rely on the power company that’s been cutting service personnel for years to increase profits is better than sitting in the dark for days or weeks at a time. It also seems smarter to NOT have to find a source of gasoline in the aftermath of a hugely destructive event just so you can plug in your computer and charge your cell phone. Whether you just want an emergency supply or are able to install an ample rooftop array you can switch over when the grid goes down is of course dependent on your situation. But all of us should be thinking solar for this aspect of emergency planning.

Bayer & Monsanto Killing Bees

The numbers are in, and they add up to devastating.

bees Bee Informed Partnership this month released its preliminary report on honey bee colony losses in the US for 2013-2014. The partnership, along with the Apiary Inspectors of America [AIA] and the USDA have been surveying beekeepers for 8 years in an attempt to get a handle on how many of the nation’s bee colonies are succumbing to what has been a mysterious mass die-off called “Colony Collapse Disorder” [CCD]. Last winter 23.2% of managed honey bee colonies died. That’s lower than the previous year’s estimate of 30.5%, but it does confirm that harm is still being done to these important pollinators. Loss estimate for the 12-month period between April 1, 2012 and March 30, 2013 was 45.2%. The bees are still dying, and now we know why.

Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have been published over the past decade linking CCD to pesticide use, and honey bees aren’t the only victims. More specifically, the culprit is a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Rather than being sprayed just on the surface of plants, neonics are absorbed and spread through the entire plant, including pollen and nectar. They persist in the environment and can accumulate quickly. This has led to contamination of surface water, groundwater and soil, endangering species inhabiting those ecosystems.

Neonic pesticides are manufactured and marketed primarily by Bayer Crop Science and Monsanto. The Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC] sued the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] after it failed to release Bayer’s underlying studies on the safety of its neonicotinoids. EPA approval for neonics hinged on the claim that amounts in pollen and nectar were non-lethal to bees, but studies have shown that even at low doses the pesticides have effects that impair bees’ learning and memory. The EU has banned neonics, but EPA is not considering doing so in the US. 30-50% losses annually is unsustainable, and about a quarter of the food Americans eat relies on bee pollination.

In March of 2012 the Canter for Food Safety [CFS] joined with 25 prominent beekeepers to file an Emergency Petition to the EPA asking for suspension on the use of certain neonicotinoids. When that brought no action, CFS and a coalition of 4 beekeepers and 5 environmental and consumer groups filed a formal lawsuit against EPA for failure to protect pollinators as well as seeking suspension.

Check out the Sierra Club’s Pollinator Protection Campaign to see how you can help convince Congress and the administration that bees are more valuable than Bayer’s or Monsanto’s profit margins.

Fire on the Mountain …Again

 smoky haze
The slight smoky haze that first alerted us to the fire.

I kind of knew that three whole springs without a forest fire along the Norfolk-Southern’s grade over the continental divide was pushing things. Hoped maybe their relatively new-found practice of carefully checking their brake connections BEFORE heading uphill into the ‘loops’ might become a habit. It’s been raining pretty steady, and yesterday it snowed. Not more than an inch, though, and that was melted by noon.

Fire_on_the_Mountain2It’s that period of early spring when the wind has been blowing and the greenery hasn’t made its appearance yet but the sap is running, when molten-hot metal from what passes for brake pads on train cars can find some handy tinder and quickly set the dry leaves ablaze. It can actually be good for the forest – the older, established trees can take a bit of bark-char, and the ashes help balance out the acidity of red clay soil. Trick is to not let them get out of hand. Back when they were clear-cutting these mountains and carrying out the logs by steam trains, the fires got so hot they sterilized the soil to more than a foot underground. As abundant as these mountains are, it took decades to recover.

Fire_on_the_Mountain3Grandson noticed the smoky haze in the late afternoon, shortly before the spotter plane arrived to circle overhead and let us know the fire was just over the tracks along the back side of the property. We hiked on around the ridge to see what was what, found Old Fort’s Finest [VFD] already on the tracks and in the woods, on the job. In years past they’ve staged from our place, since we have direct access to the forest, and I always like them parking that nifty tanker truck right next to the cabin for the duration. Heck, I’ll make coffee for them all night long if they make sure my house doesn’t burn! But this one didn’t start on our side of the tracks or jump them, so we were in no serious danger and they used the scout camp access road instead.

The first bladder-chopper showed up about 6 pm, the second about half an hour later. Our fat white ducks Gladys and Amelia definitely didn’t like these fat, yellow, low-flying and incredibly noisy things one little bit. They quickly stashed themselves underneath the back deck to be invisible to these very strange raptors, and complained incessantly every time we got buzzed on their way from the lake at Camp Greer to the fire line. It was on the private hunting land immediately north of us and encompassing some acres of state game land just to the west, but didn’t get as far as the National Forest boundary on the other side of the northwestern cove. It was moving steadily east along the cove ridge, toward the railroad wall.

fire-on-the-roadsideOf course I sent hub out to take pictures, being as he is a professional photographer and all. This one – which I particularly like – was taken with the camera resting on the rail as the wall heads into the ridge cut. Our property is on the left side of those tracks, so we do have some appreciation for the sheer height and width of the rock rail bed that forms the wall. It takes a darned hot fire and a really stiff wind to jump that firebreak!

As darkness began to fall the 50 or so firefighters on the line sent out for coffee and take-out dinners, catered by the railroad watchers in their nifty track-truck. The fire was halfway up to the top of the ridge by the time the spotter and helicopters had to shut down for the night, so they didn’t bring the fire train usually kept in the rail yard in town. Nice multi-hose pumper contraption on a flat car between two tankers – one with water, the other with chemical retardant. The scheduler was getting antsy by the time the truck made it back to the line with food and drinks, kept calling to find out when they could start moving trains again. It was kind of humorous, since the fire by then had crept back down the mountainside and caused the firefighters to have to scramble straight up the loose rocks of the wall to get out of its way. Below is a shot of that bit of temporary excitement, from the 5th ‘hole’ of our disc golf course, called “High Springs” because 1) it’s a high point on the property, and 2) someone many years before us left a metal bedspring up there that a tree now nearly 3 feet in circumference grew in the middle of.

Fire_on_the_Mountain

It definitely looks exciting, but as usual it was mostly leaf and deadfall that burned. This morning there wasn’t even any smoke left, and by this time next month the forest floor will be even more thickly covered with greenery than it was before. Minus a few of the smaller saplings, which need to be thinned occasionally anyway, and maybe now that the leaves are ash we won’t get any further fires that close this year. We’re hoping, at any rate!